Mandala Monday – Mandala: The Origin of the Word by Epouna

If you have ever wondered why every mandala that you see is round in shape, it is because the English word circle is translated from the Sanskrit word mandala. Although you may have been recently introduced to the term, it is certainly nothing new. In fact, the idea behind mandala was used in many religions, thousands of years ago, long before it began its rise in popularity in the Sanskrit world.

Painted 19th century Tibetan mandala of the Naropa tradition

The powerful circular form of the mandala is prevalent in Buddhist and Hindu religions. You will notice four gates in the shape of a T that extend from the center point in these pieces, showing the circle of unity. Vajrayana is a Tibetan branch of Buddhism that offer total enlightenment by creating their mandalas as sandpaintings. Of course, this is certainly not the only example of mandala used in religion.

Tibetan monks making a temporary “Sand-Mandala”
in the City-Hall of Kitzbuehel in Austria.

The moji-mandala is a common form you will find in Nichiren Buddhism. It’s created as a wooden tablet or a hanging paper scroll. These not only hold inscriptions of Chinese characters but medieval Sanskrit as well to cover Buddha’s concepts, enlightenment and protective elements as well as other gods of Buddha. Nichiren religions worship this form of mandala, also referred to as Gohonzon.

Two and three-dimensional mandalas with geometric angles are used in meditation in Hindu rituals. Referred to as Yantras in this case, it is believed that the gods live within them. Therefore, each Yantras is unique to one god. Individuals who use Yantras for worship are able to seek the presence of these gods to ask for guidance.

A diagramic drawing of the Sri Yantra, showing the outside square,
with four T shaped gates, and the central circle.

Those who practice the Christian religion may be familiar with mandala in the form of rosary, halos, Crown of Thorns, rosy cross, rose windows and Celtic crosses. These are all used by worshipers to feel closer to God.

Interior of the rose at Strasbourg Cathedral.

For many centuries, the Bora Ring site has been used for initiation rituals by Australian natives. The girdle or circular belt worn by the acolytes is referred to as the Bora. Intricate stone arrangements such as Stonehenge offer a close relation to the mandala and Bora Ring. Creator-spirit Baiame is represented in ancient art and rock carvings as a mandalan figure.

You will find a collection of both inner and outer circles when viewing a mandala. These offer a different representation depending on which religious group is viewing the piece. Native-Americans have also used the mandala form in their culture. The inner mandala supports offerings pertaining to the body while the outer supports human senses.

You may or may not be familiar with labyrinths which are closely related to the mandala as they both take you on a circular journey toward the heart of the piece. Minotaur of ancient mythology was the inspiration behind the first labyrinth being built so that it could be held safely. The labyrinth’s center is viewed as being divine just as the mandala’s center offers enlightenment.


The greatest of mandalas is the spiral or circle of life. Trusting in your beliefs will give you the truest meaning. These are the strong beliefs that send you on an inner journey as you observe and are surrounded by the outer world, just as the mandala began its journey in the Sanskrit world.

Article by Epouna

Images from Wikimedia Commons


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Mandala Monday – Native American Mandalas Guest Post by Epouna

The mandala can symbolize a variety of things including a sacred circle, the creation of a journey and it can even be used for healing, depending on the user. Mandala is the Sanskrit word for circle, it not only introduces you to your personal life’s circle but that of the universe as well. The great mandala can be found in various cultures, just as tribes throughout the planet make use of Native American mandalas in their own rituals.

While you may assume that the Tibetan mandala was the first variety ever created, the mandala from the Shaman in Native American culture is far more ancient. The center is the circle’s healing power while the four points of the circle are said to represent direction and form the sacred hoop. The Native American medicine wheel provides a good example of this.

The medicine wheel offers a link to the mind, just as any other type of mandala does. There are left, right, front, center and rear ?lobes? that act as sections as if corresponding to a map of the human brain. Each point on the medicine wheel and the great mandala correspond with specific points in the mind to provide senses of sacredness, belonging, hope and strength.

The Native American mandala is often referred to as Nagual or Tonal, the Circle of Existence for good reason. The center is meant to house the user’s superconscious mind while the outer circle houses the conscious, also known as the surface mind. This is followed by four additional circles which must be viewed before the center is reached. These four circles include unconscious (auto drive), subconscious (magical), subjective (databank) and editor and censor. It is all of these elements in your surface mind that handles your daily experiences.

You may be familiar with the dream catcher, a very popular form of Native American mandalas. These were originally created by the Ojibwa Tribe to ward off nightmares of their children by hanging them over their beds. The web would entangle the bad dreams throughout the night which would disappear before daylight. Just as the Native American mandala has four directional points, so can the dream catcher.

Sand paintings are another form of Native American mandalas. Constructed with precision, this free-form variety draws the user into its center. However, perfection is vital, if any flaws exist, the mandala can no longer be used. Once sand paintings have been appreciated, it is tradition that they are washed away in a body of water.

It is suggested that the dance shield associated with the Plains tribe’s is the ancestor to the Native American mandala. The dance shield has always been a sacred instrument used for protection, long life, survival and spiritual blessings.

The Circle of Life and Mother Earth are regarded with the highest level of respect by Native Americans, similar to many other cultures. The mandala can provide a clearness of the spirit when used in meditation as the center circle is focused on to help complete one’s journey

Article by Epouna

Images from Wikimedia Commons


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